When I first heard about Katrina, I was too immature to understand. Instead of thinking about the billions and billions and billions of dollars it would take for the city to recover or how some parts could never be the same at all, I thought that maybe New Orleans could be like the next Atlantis, and even though all of this sucked, that would be pretty cool. Don’t judge. I was six.
But even ten years later, I still can’t pretend to comprehend how long and painful the journey to recovery for New Orleans was. It did not help that New Orleans pre-hurricane already suffered from high rates of poverty and crime. Today, while the city is definitely on the road to recovery, it’s not quite there yet. Reflecting back on the natural disaster’s 10th anniversary, some think that disaster relief hurt the people it was supposed to help the most, and point out that there is disparity between some regions, that affluence and recovery fall along racial lines.
(I like this article. It's informative and interesting and also has nice pictures.)
Fast forward seven years later, and Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast in November. This time, FEMA was more prepared to address the natural disaster, bracing itself for the storm before it even hit. Obama’s approval ratings shot up after Sandy…which happened, lucky for him, right before the 2012 election.
The Constitution does not address how the government should handle things like natural disasters, which are incredibly costly to manage. To me, especially because of what I can see in the difference between how Katrina and Sandy were handled, the answer seems obvious. The government is there to provide help in times of crisis, is it not? And while there is an argument to be made that the government should step out in times of recession because the economy may bounce back by itself in times of stress, I cannot see one that excuses government inefficiency and hesitance to respond during a natural disaster. To me, while this is not a power explicitly enumerated in the Constitution, I see it as an extension of the government's duty to protect the security of the nation.
What are your thoughts on the role of government in responding to natural disasters? Please provide a constitutional basis.